Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Teaching Theme part 1

Wow it has been forever since I have blogged, and to be honest, I am not even sure if anyone will read this. However, I have decided that I want to get back to sharing ideas as I have time, so here is the first installment in my never predictable, who knows when I will do it, blog.

I have always struggled with teaching theme. And by always, I mean the past 3 years because up until I taught 4th grade it was never in our curriculum. So... with that, I feel like I finally figured it all out this year! Of course, it was figured out with the resources of many other amazing teachers. But since it worked so well for me, I figured it could work for others as well.

Let's backtrack for a minute to where I realized that I really had to step up my game on teaching theme. Last year, the 4th grade state test's 4 point essay (the biggest writing piece on the test) was all about theme. Not only did my students completely destroy it (and not in the 'we killed it bc we did so amazing' kinda way) but so did pretty much every other 4th grader whose paper I scored. Almost every single fourth grader wrote about the main idea. And while their writing was great, and their details supported their answer, and they cited evidence... they didn't write about the theme. It pained me to read the papers because as soon as I saw the question I knew it wasn't going to go well. Theme is just a tough concept to teach and even harder for these little kiddos to understand. Until this year...

Since I knew this was such a hard skill, I decided to devote four full lessons to it. It was well worth the time spent away from a story because we didn't have to rush through mini lessons and they really enjoyed the lessons.

Day 1:
We started by watching this short video on theme. I warned the students that the voices sounded like robots but they just needed to pay attention because it was actually a good video. They laughed at the lack of actual arms of the characters.... but in the end, they grasped it and THAT is what matters.

After watching the video, I asked students to tell me what they learned about theme. We started with the rules for a theme statement (what you see in red/green). Then we talked about how to write a theme statement (blue). And finally talked about how it has to be relatable to other stories and life (purple).

The next thing we did was listen to this song (yes it is from Sesame Street, but it works). The kids actually really got into the song and asked me to play it again today (we ran out of time but I will do it again this week for them). Seriously- go listen to it. It is really catchy. I found myself singing and bopping around the room. Anyways... back to what we did. We listened to the song and the students were told to listen to the words and try to think of what the theme of the song would be. Once it was over, each student wrote what they thought the theme of the song was on a sticky note. Then I played it again and as they were listening, they had to find lyrics from the song that supported their theme. All about the evidence right?! (I didn't think to take a picture of their sticky notes- sorry!)

After that students discussed with their groups what they came up with for a theme and then as a group decided on a theme statement... but we did this with a twist. I played the song 3 more times. The first time it played they had to all share what they had on their sticky notes. The second time they had to come up with the group theme statement. The third time they had to write down lyrics that matched their group theme.

Then I wrote down each group's theme statement on the board and we talked about how even though they were all different, they were all correct. We checked the "rules" for writing a theme statement and made sure we had evidence to support each one.
They left day 1 with all of us feeling like it was a huge success. They knew what theme was and how to write a theme statement.

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